Category Archives: Shorts

“Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks)” (2014) – Review – MGLFF

 

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Writer/Director:  Daniel Ribeiro

Stars:  Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, and Tess Amorim

IMDb Logline:  Leonardo is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana, and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel.

Pros:

  1. Chemistry between the three leads
  2. Coming-of-age story from a unique perspective of a blind person
  3. Honest–by which I mean sometimes cruel–depiction of high school life

Cons:

  1. Minimal.  In comparison to the Short film the feature is based on, sometimes the pacing is a little off.

Review:  Not your standard high school story.  At an age when hormones kick in, you start to discover who you are, and you naturally chafe against your parents, blind Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) also has to deal with Giovana’s (Tess Amorim) attraction towards him as he discovers he is attracted to new boy in school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi).  The best part of the story is treating Leonardo as any other high school student–he is teased, made fun of, and gets into arguments with his friends where they storm off and just leave him somewhere by himself.  Also, the filmmakers and performers pay attention to small details.  The first time Leonardo kisses someone he keeps his eyes open; in his room he has wood blocks with his name in braille on them.

Grade = A-

Bonus:  The Way He Looks is an expansion of an earlier Short film from 2010, Eu Nao Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone).  You can watch the Short here.  I consider the Short almost perfect.  Daniel Ribeiro did an excellent job expanding the story while not making the feature flabby and staying honest to the principal storyline.

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films (2013) – Reviews

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This was the first year where I have watched all the animated shorts, and a few honorable mentions.  I’m happy I did so.  The stories and animation styles were all varied and worthwhile.  The amount of time and effort used to craft these short films is apparent in each one.  Though there was none that was dark, neither were they all happy happy joy joy.

Adam & Dog

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

Writer / Director: Minkyu Lee

At its simplest, this is the story of how dog became man’s best friend–from the dog’s perspective.  The director, Minkyu Lee, does an excellent job of making you identify with and care for the dog, as well as his relationship with Adam.  As usual, Eve gets the short end of the story by not only leading to Adam & her being cast out from the garden, but also being the reason for Adam and the dog’s initial separation.

Grade = B

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Fresh Guacamole

Click on image to view other PES SHORT FILM

Click on image to view other PES SHORT FILM

Writer / Director: PES

The story of Fresh Guacamole  is basically the story of how guacamole is made.  In this case we have stop motion claymation where the avocado is a grenade and nachos are poker chips.  The short is not so much a story but an art piece.  The link above will take you to other PES videos-similar in style.

Grade = C (as a short) / A (as a cool video)

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Head Over Heels

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Writer / Director: Timothy Reckart

Stars: Nigel Anthony and Rayyah McCaul

Head Over Heels is a stop-motion gem about the marriage of Walter (Nigel Anthony) and Madge (Rayyah McCaul).  Walter & Madge have devolved into a loveless marriage of two different individuals living under the same roof.  They have grown so far apart from each other their world has turned literally upside down.  As their house tumbles through space you cannot tell which end is up, and the same applies for the inside.  Walter lives on the floor and Madge on the ceiling; or is it the other way around?  The animation and story are original.  By the end you genuinely care about Walter & Madge and their predicament.

Grade = A

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The Longest Daycare

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

 

Director:  David Silverman

Writers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, David Mirkin, Joel H. Cohen, and Michael Price

Maggie Simpson must confront her nemesis, the unibrowed baby, at the Ayn Rand Daycare.  Befriending a caterpillar, Maggie protects it as it transforms into a beautiful butterfly from the pounding mallet of Unibrow.  The story and animation are classic Simpsons’; which will most likely lead to its downfall as a potential winner.  In the end, the short is bringing nothing new to us.  Funny, yes; original, no.

Grade = B

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Paperman

Click on image to view featurette

Click on image to view featurette

Director: Joh Kahrs

Writers: Clio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer

Stars: Joh Kahrs, Jeff Turley, Kahri Wahlgren

Paperman is gorgeous to watch.  The animation style is reminiscent of the Fleischer Studios Superman series from the early 40s.  The story is simple and sweet, but with one flaw.  I would have preferred if the eventual reunion of George (John Kahrs) & Meg (Kahri Wahlgren)  would have succeeded because of his effort in lieu of the “magic” of the paper.

Grade = A-


Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films (2013) – Reviews

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This years collection of live action shorts had a decidedly melancholy feel.  In years past there was traditionally a mix of the comic with the dramatic.  When the short that opens with an attempted suicide, Curfew, has the most comedic elements, you know you are in for a heavy ride.

All that being said, you do not leave feeling depressed.  In the end what you are seeing are stories that are very real to true life and relatable.  You identify with all these characters and what they are trying to accomplish–even Death of a Shadow, which is fantasy.

So, please enjoy these short reviews of the 2013 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films.

Asad

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Writer / Director: Bryan Buckley

Star: Harun Mohammed

Asad is well shot and acted. It fully brings you into what life is like in a coastal Somali village. A story that could have been overly oppressive is interjected with light touches and a bit of humor. (You’ll never look at a fluffy white cat the same way again.)

Grade = B+

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Buzkashi Boys

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Director: Sam French

Writer: Sam French and Martin Desmond Roe

Stars: Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz

Buzkashi Boys is a beautifully shot, yet ultimately bleak story of two boys in Kabul and the prospects of their future. The locations and how they are shot are incredible. Though you think the story may have a predictable end; it doesn’t.

Grade = A-

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Curfew

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Writer / Director: Shawn Christensen

Stars: Shawn Christensen and Fatima Ptacek

Curfew is a dark comedy that begins where it ends, with an attempted suicide. Along this circuitous path Richie (Shawn Christensen) discovers he means something to Sophia (Fatima Ptacek), his niece. And along their journey they both discover things about themselves and their family.

Grade = A

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Death of a Shadow

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Writer / Director: Tom Van Avermaet

Stars: Matthias Shoenaerts, Laura Verinden, and Peter van den Eede

Death of a Shadow is an interesting fantasy about a spirit of a WWI soldier, Nathan (Mattias Shoenaerts), who makes a deal with the Shadow Collector (Peter van den Eede) to regain his life in order to go back to his one love, Sarah Winter (Laura Verinden). But as Nathan proceeds in collecting his 10,000 shadows we learn more about his story and that of Sarah Winter; and the “love” they share for each other.

Grade = B+

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Henry

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer

Writer / Director: Yan England

Star: Gerard Poirier

Henry begins sweetly with an older couple preparing for a musical concert together. But later Henry (Gerard Poirier), at a cafe, is joined by a young woman he doesn’t know, and is spied upon by an older gentleman in a wheel chair who then gives him an ominous warning. “They” are coming for her, they are coming for your wife. Scenes flash from past to present. Henry’s confusion is matched by our own…until we realize what is happening to Henry.  Well acted and shot, the short brings you into Henry’s fractured world.

Grade = A-


Mystery Date – Shorts Program – Frameline36

Mystery Date

Mystery Date is the name given to a Shorts Program at this year’s Frameline.  Each story has a twist, secret, or some type of mystery/horror element.

Silver Stiletto (2012)

Click on image to view trailer

Director:  Luke Mayze

Writer:  Craig Rossiter

Stars:  Guy Edmondsr Guy Edmonds

Two gay bashers are brutally murdered and the only suspect is Silver Stiletto, a drag queen.  The story takes place in a police interrogation room with flashbacks to the crime.  Though the idea of the story is good, the execution is a little lacking.  The Short is stuck in a no-man’s land of sometimes being a comedy and sometimes being a drama, but in the end failing at both.  What it should have been is a dark comedy in the line of War of the Roses.  The acting, editing, and look of the Short are all good; the story is just lacking.

Grade = C

Regrets (2011)

Click on image to view trailer

Director:  Michelle Pollino

Writer:  Rob Williams

Stars:  Matt Lundy and Peter Patrikios

Matt wakes up in a bed and bedroom he doesn’t know with a man he doesn’t remember.  After the initial disorientation of trying to remember how he got there and what he did, Peter says he is leaving to work and Matt can take his time to shower and leave.  While Peter is away Matt does some minor snooping around, and doesn’t like what he finds:  men’s underwear in different sizes & styles, multiple cell phones, keys, and a small photo album with pictures of different one-night stands sleeping in bed.  Paniced, Matt quickly discovers there are no windows in this bedroom and the doors are locked.  The story is well made and paced, but the acting is average at best.

Grade = B

Turno de Noche (Night Shift) (2011)

 Director:  Carlos Ruano

Writers:  Carlos Ruano and Susana Lopez Rubio

Stars:  Adam Jezierski and Israel Rodriguez

Israel is a young window dresser for a department star.  Adam is a new mall security guard that eyes him through the window.  They eventually meet and fall for each other.  When Israel shares with Adam he is scared to go to the storage basement for the mannequin, Adam offers to accompany him.  If you are a fan of Doctor Who’s Weeping Angels, then you will be a fan of Turno de Noche.  It is a well made and acted Short reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode.

Grade = A

The Rookie and the Runner (2012)

Writer/Director:  Augie Robles

Stars:  Ephraim Lopez, George Perez, and Rich Gallardo

A jogger runs along a winding road.  At a break to catch his breath he runs into two potential tricks.  Choosing the jogger they go into the woods, followed behind by the motorist who left his car.  In a clearing in the woods the two joggers get close and the motorist looks on.  But then fantasy becomes reality and the other jogger is a cop there to entrap men cruising for sex.  The motorist snaps a twig as he backs away thereby distracting the cop.  The jogger runs away; the cop chases.  The Short is well shot, but the story does not draw you in.  The tension felt had more to do with the audience knowing something was going to happen by the theme of the Shorts Program, then with what you were seeing up on the screen.

Grade = C

My Night with Andrew Cunanan (2011)

Click on image to view trailer

Writer/Director:  David Kordt-Thomas

Stars:  David Kordt-Thomas and Adrain Bustamante

When David discovers the rampage of serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Adrain Bustamante), he flashes back to the night he met him.  David is out at a bar when he is hit on by Cunanan.  What follows are David’s thoughts of what did and what could have happened if he made different choices.  Though the idea of the story is very good, the “what if” scenarios shown vary in quality and some make no sense.

Grade = C-

Solo Un Detalle (It’s Just a Detail) (2010)

Click on image to view short (in Spanish)

Writer/Director:  Giovanni Maccelli

Stars:  Helena Castaneda

A quick Short about a body disposal that goes wrong when the culprit is surprised in her apartment by friends & family gathered for her surprise birthday party.  Well concieved story with good acting and editing.  Short, sweet and to the point.

Grade = A

La Victoria de Ursula (Ursula’s Victory) 2011

Click on image to view trailer

Directors:  Julio Marti & Nacho Ruiperez

Writers:  Julio Marti, Nacho Ruiperez, and Juan Verdu

Stars:  Irene Ferrando, Terele Pavez, and Sergio Caballero

Ursula is a young girl who sneaks into a cementary to dig-up a grave.  Before she can proceed she is caught by the grave digger.  In his quarters she reveals the motivation for her actions, eventually winning him over.  The look and feel of the Short is very Tim Burton before he became a cliche of himself.  The story successfully maintains the mystery of her actions until the very end.  A very well made, acted, and scripted Short.

Grade = A


Men’s Shorts Program – Review – 2012 Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF)

MEN’S SHORTS PROGRAM
I was proud to be Co-Chair of the Program Committee for this year’s festival.  And though the entire Program Process is a collaborative affair, the selection of the Shorts Program was all mine.  As such, you have to hopefully find the right balance of comedies & dramas, and also remember that your tastes are not necessarily the same as everyone else’s.  This was definitely evidenced  during the Audience Vote tabulations.  Though for the most part the common consensus of the quality of the shorts was in line with my own opinion below, I was surprised how certain films which I enjoyed had some low votes, and the one Average (C) short scored higher than I would have thought.
Below are my reviews of the Shorts in the order they were screened, and not how I rated them.

“33 Teeth”

33 Teeth

Writer & Director:  Evan Roberts

Star:  Spence Seigel

Eddie (Spencer Seigel) is the fourteen year old gangly neighbor of Chad.  Chad is seventeen, fit and straight.  After spying on Chad measuring his manhood against the teeth of a comb, Eddie decides to see how his stacks up to Chad’s

This is a cute, humorous, but slight short about self-esteem and self-awareness.  Eddie is aware that he is gay and likes Chad, but he knows Chad is into girls.  Eddie also gets a welcome boost of self-esteem when he learns he–the little guy–stacks-up very well against Chad–the jock.  The story is well constructed with little dialogue, but good visuals that covey what Eddie is thinking and feeling.

Spencer Seigel handles the role of Eddie well.  Initially he comes across as meek and embarrassed about himself, but grows in confidence as the story develops.  You route for him with his euphoric reaction at the end of the film.

Grade = B-

“Boys Village”

Boys Village

Writer & Director:  Till Kleinert

Star:  Benjamin Thorne

Boys Village is a gothic tale about an abandoned boys summer camp for coal miners sons that burned down back in the 30’s.  In this lonely and desolate setting Kevin (Benjamin Thorne) imagines going to classes in the abandoned buildings, praying in the chapel, and has conversations with dolls made from found objects.  But his existence is interrupted whenolder kids enter his lonely life and vandalize the village & his “friends”.

Till Kleinert has fashioned a well paced modern gothic tale.  The look of the film is appropriately bleak, and the use of music haunting.  The scene when Kevin is chased by one of the older boys is tense and well-edited.  Benjamin Thorne is superb as the peculiar lonely boy with no real friends.

Grade = A-

4 Pounds

4 Pounds

Director:  Josh Levy

Writer:  Scott Thompson

Star:  Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson plays himself as an actor who has to lose the incredible weight of four pounds in four weeks.  Against the better wishes of his partner, Elliot, and mother (Thompson) he begins his diet; hallucinations and lose of will power quickly ensue.

4 Pounds is a comedy.  The short looks good, and its sight gags deliver.  Though it won’t make you think, it will make you laugh.  Unfortunately its premise is as light as air and will not stay in your memory.

Grade = C

“Free Man”

Free Man

Writer & Director:  Katie Rotondi

Stars:  Marcus Paul James, Cheryl Horne, and Rick Hamilton

Michael (Marcus Paul James) has been in a committed relationship with Charlie (Rick Hamilton) for fifteen years when Charlie suddenly dies.  Devastated, Michael must work with Celine, Charlie’s mother, on the funeral arrangements.  Initially cooperative, disagreements begin and Michael is left out of the arrangements because his is not legally married to Charlie.

Michael is a musician and singer, and his abilities are used to great effect in his emotionally raw ballad for Charlie at the service.  With his grief laid bare for all to witness, Celine truly becomes aware of the love Michael felt for her son.

The story is told in a nonlinear fashion.  We begin at the funeral home with Michael and Celine making the arrangements, and as the story moves forward you are shown Michael’s & Charlie’s history in flashback.  Though Celine could have easily been portrayed as a purely one dimensional horrible person, Katie Rotondi (Writer & Director) is careful to show you what she is feeling and her motivations.  Both Marcus Paul James and Cheryl Horne deliver strong multifaceted performances.

Grade = B+

“7 Deadly Kisses”

7 Deadly Kisses

Writer & Director:  Sammaria Simanjuntak

Stars:  Sunny Soon, Daud Sumolang, and Vivian Idris (Voice)

7 Deadly Kisses is not so much a story but a funny skit.  Two friends go into a booth where there are shown the seven deadly kisses to avoid when dating a woman.  As the computer voice (Vivian Idris) talks, the kisses are listed and Sunny and Daud made to demonstrate on each other what to and not to do.  Once the lesson is complete, the voice encourages them to leave and demonstrate their new knowledge on women.  But as the voice continues to encourage them to leave, Sunny & Daub have discovered they enjoy kissing each other.

Though a skit, it is well structured with a clear beginning, middle & end.  Both leads are game, and make appropriately funny faces when necessary.

Grade = B-

“Fallen Comrade”

Fallen Comrade

(Winner Jury Selection and Audience Award for Best Short)

Writer & Director:  James Valdez

Stars:  Javier Lezama, Tyler Kimball, and Jennifer Eagle

With the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Fallen Comrade is a timely tail.  The story is a nonlinear tale of Julien Reyes (Javier Lezama) and Alexander Ward (Tyler Kimball).  During Alex’s military burial we see Julien’s memory of their relationship.  How Alex helped him in Basic Training, how they developed a relationship together, how they served together, and how Alex died in combat with Julien trying to save him.  A powerful burial ceremony is made more impactful with the thoughtful actions of Alex’s mother (Jennifer Eagle) once it is complete.

James Valdez (Writer & Director) has served in combat and is currently active in the reserves.  His experiences in service, use of actual servicemen in the basic training scenes, and access to military equipment brings an amount of authenticity to the scenes not normally found in Short Films with such small budgets.  The use of music is also expertly done.  The Bjork song used as Julien, alone and distraught in his apartment, remembers the passion he had with Alex makes you feel his loss and passion.  The Leann Rimes rendition of Amazing Grace is equally powerful during the Twenty-One Gun salute and the presentation of the flag.

The acting is strong across the board.  Though not on-screen much, Tyler Kimball is able to express Alex as a compassionate person.  Javier Lezama depicts Julien as someone who is initially too proud to receive help, but is later able to feel real emotion towards another person and expose himself to the pain of loss.  Jennifer Eagle, in her few scenes as the distraught mother, resonates without saying one word.

Grade = A

“Shabbat Dinner”

Shabbat Dinner

(Winner of the Audience Special Consideration Award for Short Film)

Writer & Director:  Michael Morgenstern

Stars:  Chris London & Dan Shaked

It is Friday night and the Shore’s invite the Bernstein-Cohen’s to their home for Shabbat Dinner.  After dinner William Shore (Michael London) and Virgo Bernstein-Cohen (Dan Shaked) excuse themselves to William’s bedroom.  While their parents talk in the family room, William & Virgo awkwardly get to know each other better.  Virgo reveals that he recently came-out to some friends and his parents.  William thinks it’s cool he had the balls to do that.  He then continues the conversation by asking what it is like to kiss a man and how Virgo knew he is gay.  As their parents get to know each other in one room, William & Virgo get to know each other in the other.

The script is both funny and genuine.  William’s & Virgo’s initial conversation in the bedroom is awkward and stunted with one word answers to questions & long pauses.  The conversations between the parents are frenetic and tense; the wives having to change the subject when topics of discussion become slightly heated.  Michael Morgenstern (Writer & Director) in effect has created two stories.  The minor story involving the parents is shot with an–for lack of a better adjective–orange glow, with humorous music, and odd camera angles.  The major story of William & Virgo is shot clearly and quietly.

Both actors give solid performances.  You feel they are young and inexperienced; trying to figure out who they are.  Also, their timing of line delivery and side glances during the different scenes brings additional humor to the script and visuals.  Two stand out moments are when William reiterated to Virgo he is not gay after their make-out session, Virgo then gives William a peck on the lips, and William tells him to leave his number.  Later, as Virgo and his parents are leaving the apartment he looks over their heads to William, William looks from his father to Virgo and back again, all the while William’s father stares at William having caught the both of them in the bedroom.

Grade = A